| The Next Time
Preface: This is something of a continuation of a previous trip report. Kate and I set out to hike Cronin Peak a couple of weeks before this hike, but threatening clouds didn't allow us to get there. "Cronin" is my last surviving aunt's maiden name (on my mom's side) and I've wanted to hike this peak ever since I realized there was a mountain by that name (which isn't all that long...). To my knowledge there is no relation between Mary Cronin and my aunt. This report is written with my aunt and other family in mind so it may be a bit more descriptive/different than other reports. Also, please forgive any repeated info in this report; I vowed to come back here and hike Cronin Peak "next time" in my other report and this is "the next time."
Trailhead: Cyclone Creek. Take CO-50 to 240 (at Maysville) and follow it for 8.2 ish miles. The road is rough in spots, but a well-driven 2WD can likely get there though a higher clearance car would be much better. Look for the TH after passing by the ruins of an old cabin (marked "Shavano" on the Topo). The trail has a trail marker/road closed sign a little ways into the forest, which is visible from the road if you're looking for it. There is easy parking for 2, maybe 3, cars at the TH.
Route: On the ascent, we followed Jerry Roach's southwest ridge route for Cronin (he calls it "North Carbonate") from Cyclone Creek. In short, from the TH, follow the trail for about .9 miles, cross to the other side of the creek. Follow that trail (which fades in and out) for about 1 mile, re-cross to the original side of the creek, and hike up via the obvious gully to the ridge. Then turn left.
On the descent, we hiked down from the Lo Carb/Grizzly saddle and stuck to the west side of the drainage back to the trail.
Mileage: ~10 miles
Special gear: None needed.
Difficulty: Mostly Class 1 and 2. Some short Class 2+/3 from Lo Carb to its saddle with Grizzly. Class 1 = on-trail hiking. Class 2 = walking where there is no trail. Class 3 = Scrambling or un-roped climbing; you must use your hands most of the time to hold the terrain or find your route.
Cronin Peak is the 75th tallest mountain in Colorado and is named after Mary Cronin who is the first woman to climb all of Colorado's 14,000 foot mountains. Cronin Peak is located in the southern Sawatch mountain range, not far from the town of Salida. It is very close to the 14er Mount Antero. Here is the Lists of John map of the area, which you can zoom in and zoom out and drag the map to see the surrounding area and here is the SummitPost page for Cronin Peak.
It was time for a rematch. We got weathered off of our attempt to hike Cronin two weeks prior. So, like the stubborn person I am, I decided to re-hike this route the way we intended the first time, same route, same trailhead. After some positive response to my last TR from this area, I put out some feelers to who else might want to come along. Kate and I ended up hiking with Dave "CarpeDM" and John "InclineGuy." Thanks for the fun hike Dave and John!
We met at the camping spot about .25 miles before the Cyclone TH (on the left side as you're driving in) and then drove up to the TH. We geared up and were soon on our way. The first mile or so to the creek crossing was easy and having been there so recently, we didn't need to hunt around for the weak trail. There was a bit of frost lingering on the ground, but it didn't feel very chilly. I really enjoy the stillness of a cold morning - as long as I'm warm enough!
The creek crossing was easy to find and soon we were making our way up the west side of the drainage. Here, the trail fades to nothing several times, but we just continued heading into the drainage and we'd pick up the next trail segment. At times, the trail/route runs through the forest on the lower slopes of Calico Mountain, which is the western wall of Cyclone Creek drainage, and at other times it weaves through chest-high willows down on the valley floor. It doesn't really matter if you follow the trail or not, as long as you keep gaining elevation and distance from the trailhead. The forest isn't too dense so it's easy to make your way through it.
Prior to the creek crossing point that Roach recommends, which we took the last time we were here, we decided to take a more direct route to the ascent gully. We were probably 200 yards at most from Roach's crossing point, but the willows were thin and an easy route across the creek was apparent.
The forest on the other side of the creek is probably 100 yards or so wide and is easy to cross. It is not difficult to dead-reckon through here even though you are unable to see the gully - just keep ascending the side of the drainage and you'll get to treeline eventually. From there, the view tells you that the easy hiking is over and the ascent will soon begin in earnest.
Just past treeline. The view of the ascent gully.
The last time we were here, this ascent gully was pretty well frozen solid from a recent storm that left some snow up high. The weather must have been "better" in the last few days since the dirt and rock in the gully were dry and loose. I would have preferred the frozen dirt over this since we slipped a bit on each step - not too bad, but enough to be a little annoying.
Looking back at Kate and Dave heading up the gully.
Kate still heading up the gully.
At the top of the gully is the saddle between Carbonate Mountain and Cyclone Mountain; the saddle is a little over 13,200 feet high. This is well above treeline so our views of the area were unobstructed. Kate and I hiked both Carbonate and Cyclone the last time we were here so we sat down on the saddle and waited for John and Dave to summit Carbonate and return before we all continued onto Cyclone.
The view at the Carbonate/Cyclone saddle. Cronin Peak is left center, Mount Antero is on the right side.
The hike from the saddle to Cyclone is pretty simple. Just walk up on talus until you can't walk up anymore. There was a hint of a trail, but we mostly just walked up the rock.
The last bit before the summit of Cyclone.
It looked pretty far from the top of Cyclone to Cronin Peak. In the next picture, Cronin Peak is the highest point on the right side. Cronin is about 1.6 ish miles from the top of Cyclone via the ridge. The ridge walk is a pretty pleasant stroll to the base of Cronin.
The route ahead from Cyclone. Cronin Peak is the mountain right of center.
We had to avoid some mine ruins on the backside of Cyclone just at the saddle. It was too bad they were covered in snow - I like these reminders of people who have been here before and who were much hardier than I.
There are some mine ruins at the saddle between Cyclone and Lo Carb.
Cronin is getting closer (on the left) and Mount Antero (on the right) looks on with its scarred face. Mount Antero (the 10th tallest mountain in Colorado) has several "roads" leading almost up to the summit. It is known for its gemstones and amateurs and not-so-amateur rock hunters look for valuable stones on and just below the surface. I've read a saying on 14ers.com: Just because there are no trees in the way doesn't mean it's a road. That is very true about the main road leading to Mount Antero; it hardly resembles a road and is not suitable for normal cars and some stock SUVs (unless you don't mind a bit of damage). However, there are many roads rougher than it in Colorado.
The main goal.
Another shot of Cronin from farther along the ridge. Our route up Cronin was via the southwest ridge, which you can see here. It's a gentle ridge with pretty stable rock. The views of the fall colors were amazing.
Another look at Cronin.
Here, at the base of Cronin Peak's southwest ridge, our goal was finally within reach. However, the top still seemed a long way off. Time to put one foot in front of the other and gain some elevation...
A head-on look at Cronin's southwest ridge.
A little ways up the ridge, Kate and John are in the lead. Cronin has some beautiful colors, including some small rock bands, which are visible in the foreground. There wasn't a well-defined trail, so generally we stuck to the ridge crest as we made our way up to "Aunt Peggy's Mountain."
Kate and John heading up.
Looking back on our progress. The far left peak is Carbonate and the next one to the right is Cyclone; we gained the ridge between these two mountains. The gentle mound in the center of the picture is "Lo Carb." It's name is in quotes because that is not an official name for the mountain. In fact, the mountain is not an official mountain since its summit does not rise more than 300 feet from the low point between it and its next higher neighbor. The top of Cronin would be the farthest away from our cars that we would be all day - about 5 miles. Sometimes when I realize just how far I am from the trailhead, I get a little discouraged and wonder what kind of insanity I must suffer from to willingly do this just about every weekend, year round...
Looking back. We hiked all that?
I still don't have an answer to that insanity question, but frankly I don't really care. I love this hobby.
Here is the summit of Cronin Peak. We had a great view of Mount Antero and Tabeguache Peak (another 14er) as well as the entire southern Sawatch Range and the northern part of the Sangre de Cristo Range from up here. The summit has a fair amount of space to relax on, but that weather gave us an incentive to not spend much time enjoying the view.
The summit of Cronin Peak with some weather.
Here we are on the descent heading to Grizzly Mountain, which is on the right. Our goal when we started out was to also hike Grizzly Mountain; however, we started to hear some thunder and we got a little bit of graupel (little ball bearing sized/shaped snow) coming down on us. The blue sky you can see in the picture is deceiving since the other direction was dark clouds and snow coming down.
Thundersnow isn't a new concept to us, but it was a bit disconcerting to hear thunder while on a mile long ridge at 13,000 feet + with no convenient way to get off the ridge other than to press on and get higher up...
Grizzly on the right. Kate and Dave are in this picture.
There is a little bit of class 2+/3 from Lo Carb to Grizzly Mountain. The first obstacle is this rock tower thing. Kate and I went to the right toward that notch while John and Dave went either directly over the top of or to the left of the point, left of center. To the right isn't very good and you'll get cliffed-out (no more forward progress due to a steep drop-off), but if you do go right then you should stay near the crest and you'll see an exit from the right side to the left. Or just stay left and you'll be fine.
Rock tower. Go up and over or left or not-too-far right.
Here's Kate coming down from a bit of a chimney down-climb (it probably went class 3 for a move or two, but it was generally class 2/2+). It wasn't too bad, but we were not expecting this. There are multiple options to get down.
This is the view after the downclimb in the last picture. Up and over the rocky point works pretty well; hiking a little below the top on the left side works ok, too. Going too low on the left will get you into some loose rocks - a lot of loose rocks.
We decided to call it a day at the saddle, which is just past the pic above and is shown in the pic below. The clouds were rumbling and we were feeling some fatigue. We probably could have pressed on and added Grizzly Mountain to our day, but the weather was making us a bit uncomfortable. We descended the yellow ribbon at the saddle to the rock pile below and followed a trail segment until it died. Then we just continued heading to the grassy valley floor ahead.
Looking back at the descent "yellow ribbon."
The upper part of the basin is on a bit of a rise off the rest of the valley floor. It is also a bit boggy so watch your step or you may sink a bit...
The upper basin area.
This drainage is very colorful and it would likely be a good place to go for a secluded camping trip.
The view of the lower part of the ridge leading from Cyclone to Lo Carb (right to left).
The hike out was pretty straightforward. We stuck to the west side of the basin (opposite side from Cyclone/Lo Carb). We even found some trail segments.
There's a minor creek crossing to contend with. We crossed the creek pretty high in the basin. To cross it lower would entail more willows...
Creek crossing in the upper part of the basin.
Willows are something you'll just have to get used to here. Actually, they weren't that bad and there were game trails through them if you looked hard enough.
You've gotta love the willows. Kate and Dave.
The clouds got a bit darker on the hike out. Soon the light graupel became heavy graupel.
The snow covered the forest floor after a bit. The temperatures were a little above freezing so it started to melt pretty quick.
But the warm temps turned the graupel almost into slush on the way down and we got pretty wet.
We got caught in a bit of a snow/slush shower on the way down.
The next few pics are views of the area after the snow stopped and the sun came out again. This is a beautiful place to visit - especially in the fall.
Even the drive is scenic.
Well, Aunt Peg - there's your mountain! It was a fun hike and we hope you enjoyed this report.
Bob and Kate
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):